Air Force expands initiative to contract with tribal business

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SALT LAKE CITY - Utah's American Indian tribes may get an economic boost from the United States Air Force. Joseph Diamond, director of the Department of Defense Air Force Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (SADBU) in Washington, D.C., was in Salt Lake City recently to sign a memorandum to expand the Native American Small Business Initiative nationwide.

"The Native American Initiative calls for focused outreach and training, matching requirements with capabilities, and leveraging partnerships in order to enhance opportunities for Native American and Tribally Held Firms to compete for Air Force contracts," says Diamond. "In 2002, $444 million went to Native American Firms."

The Air Force's initiative began in FY 1998 and it currently provides federal contracts to tribal entities in five states, including Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota and Arizona. Utah economic development officials and tribal leaders would like to see some of those federal contracts come to American Indian firms in Utah.

"Expansion of the Native American Small Business Initiative in Utah would provide members of our tribes with some much needed jobs," said Forrest Cuch, director of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs. "Unemployment on the reservations is high and our people lack educational and employment opportunities."

"We have tremendous human capital on the reservations and we're just now learning how to tap that potential," said Jeff Gochnour, director of the Division of Business and Economic Development. "This is an exciting first step to capitalize on federal contract opportunities for our Native Americans."

"The tribes must have the capability to meet the contract needs, including quality standards and budget requirements and have the ability to complete contracts on time," explained Carey Wold, research consultant for the state's Division of Indian Affairs. "This effort will enhance the development of Indian Smart Sites in Utah and allow the tribes to take advantage of 8(a) Indian preference on federal contracts that have no dollar limits." The division cited Uinta River Technologies, a Northern Ute Tribe IT enterprise. Three additional tribal firms have been formed. Details about those companies will be announced soon.

Others attending the meeting included Matthew Benavides, deputy director of the Air Force Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, Dr. Patricia Luna, program manager of the Air Force Small Business Native American Initiative, Brent Bradbury, director, Small Business Office, Ogden Logistics Center of the Small Business Administration (SBA); the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) the Department of Community and Economic Development and Utah tribal leaders.

For more information about the small business initiative, call (801) 538-8858.